A worker delivers Amazon packages in New York, the US, March 20 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI
A worker delivers Amazon packages in New York, the US, March 20 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI

San Francisco — Amazon.com is raising overtime pay for associates working in its US warehouses as the world’s largest online retailer tries to meet the rapidly growing demand for online shopping from consumers stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, said on Saturday: “My own time and saying is now wholly focused on Covid-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role,” according to a message posted on a company website.

Hourly workers at Amazon’s US warehouses will receive double pay after 40 hours for overtime, up from the 1.5-times rate, from March 15 to May 9, the rate increase announced on Saturday reads.

This is the second time the e-commerce giant announced an increase in pay for its workers in a week. On Monday, Amazon hiked the minimum hourly rate for associates to $17 from $15 and announced plans to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the US as the virus outbreak boosts online orders.

As the virus spreads across the US, Amazon has offered unlimited unpaid time off to encourage employees to stay home if they do not feel well. It has also staggered workers shifts and prohibited employees from sitting next to each other in the lunchroom to limit contact.

Protect employees

But four Democratic US senators, including Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, expressed concern in a letter to Bezos that Amazon has not taken enough measures to protect its warehouse staff. They specifically asked if the company would provide “time-and-a-half” hazard pay for its workers.

In response to Saturday’s wage news, one of the letter’s signatories, senator Robert Menendez, said he applauds the decision but that Amazon still has work to do to protect employees.

Bezos said in Saturday’s online post that Amazon has ordered “millions” of face masks for its on-site staff, but few have been filled because the masks are in low supply and are first going to hospitals at governments’ directions.

“When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people,” he said.

Amazon reported on Thursday its first warehouse employee in the US tested positive for the virus, forcing the company to temporarily shutter the facility in New York.

As the virus spreads across the US, several clothing retailers and department-store chains have shut stores, and cafe and restaurant operators have closed down or limited services to delivery and takeaway.

Online retailers and grocery stores are trying to capture rising demand as more Americans are ordered to stay at home to reduce the spread of the outbreak.

Rival retailer Walmart said it plans to hire 150,000 hourly associates in the US and announced $550m in cash bonuses to reward workers.


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